Carmen at the Musical Museum, Brentford, 26 March 2011

Carmen (1915)
Carmen (1915)

This is one of London’s more unusual venues for a silent film screening: the Musical Museum in Brentford, Middlesex, which is just down the road from Chiswick. The museum boasts a magnificent Wurlitzer and regularly shows films with organ accompaniment – every so often we get a silent film in the mix, too. The silent film they are showing next is Carmen (1915), and although the online programme sports a very sultry picture of Theda Bara in the role, I have it on very good authority that they are showing the version directed by Cecil B DeMille, featuring opera star Geraldine Farrar.

Carmen, which was based on the novel by Prosper Mérimée rather than the opera, was a huge hit at the time, first prompting a rival studio to produce the version starring Bara and then inspiring Chaplin to make A Burlesque on Carmen (1916). Was that one of the first spoof movies?

Farrar plays Carmen, a beautiful Gypsy who seduces a soldier in order to distract him from his post and allow her fellow smugglers to sneak contraband into the city of Seville. Well, it all ends rather messily as you probably know, but it’s a classic tale – and the bullring sequence is fantastic. Also, I’m very pleased to see the Musical Museum showing such an early film, rather than the more familiar 1920s fare.

The Wurlitzer, which was originally installed in the Regal cinema in Kingston Upon Thames, will be played by Donald Mackenzie. Carmen (1915) will screen at the Musical Museum, Brentford, on 26 March 2011, at 7.30pm. Tickets, which are £10, are available here, along with all the information you need.

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